Of Clouds and Cowards


It was the coward's way out, he knew. He could feel it rolling around in his gut like a stupidly cheerful puppy. He could see it in Dade's pinched mouoth and brow, in the way she scrunched up her nose and tilted her head just slightly to the left. But, most notably, was the way her knuckles were stark white as the moon above against the dark sky.

Dade had expected better. She, the unreliable "friend" with the dubious habit lingering on her forearm, had expected better. Better than what he was about to give. Better than this.

That he managed to disappoint her is startlinging... hard. Like the puppy now lodged in his throat. Like the stiffness in his own shoulders. Like the rigid set to his own stance. Like the cruelly stolid lines on his own face.

The landscape surrounding was all strong lines and angles, too, without the expected snow to soften it. Pallid moonlight glinted off intermittent patches, adding some degree of depth to a seemingly flat picture. Up above, only hte thin, transparent clouds tiered around the cautious moon.

A calm, freezing night. A sharp, cold betrayal.

It was the coward's way out, but he was too scared to do otherwise. Bravery was never an attribute he's ever applied to himself. Self-serving had been a term used once or twice. Weak. And, now, coward.

It stung more than he's thought it would, that word passing between them. Coward. Dade's eyes hardened like those light clouds framing the moon. The air cold as the slap.

She didn't cry. Her eyes didn't shine. Her shoulders didn't shake She had expected better, but, all the same, she'd known. Somehow, that made it worse. Harsh judgment from a no-longer friend. Spine stiff with betrayal and disappointment.

He could see the strain across her shoulders and the stiffness in her gait as she stalked away, the moonlight fading as though closing a dream. The clouds had thickened and begun crossing the moon, its own halo shrouded.

And when Dade's disappointed form finally left his field of vision, so, too, did the moon. he'd lost her to himself as the moon had lost itself to the clouds.

It was the coward's way out, and still he took it.


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